Life is a Benediction (5 of 5)

The way JRR Tolkien describes so invitingly, Bilbo’s life in The Shire in his classic work “The Hobbit”, a life of pint and pipe and books, a leisure life of sumptuous repast and cozy fires – one would think they had already reached the happily ever after of the story before it even had a chance to begin . . . thankfully, Tolkien goes on to enchant us with his much beloved tale of adventure, courage, and comradery.

I’ve always found it curious when meeting folks who are so fixated on having their happily ever after right now, they end up trying to avoid some of the best chapters of their life’s story – as if uncertainty could be held in abeyance and security were anything other than an illusion. Perhaps they need Gandalf the Grey to enlist them in an adventure, to remind them that there is far more to life . . . and that they were created for far more than they have been willing to accept.

We find the most notable, sensibly safe person of scripture with a shovel in his hand, having just buried his talent (Matthew 25:18) – spoiler alert! It doesn’t end well for him. The point of the parable isn’t about how shrewd we can be with what we’ve been given, but whether or not we are willing to risk engaging the world with what God has entrusted to us. In Luke 9:60, Jesus ostensibly explains that death is for the dead, conversely implying that life is for the living, and that the Kingdom of God is all about life – therefore the living should be about the business of proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

As the worship service closes every Sunday morning, I remember that it opened with God calling me to join my brothers and sisters in this place to worship him, and to learn how to live my life in his presence. So as the words of the benediction are spoken, I turn the palms of my hands up, and my face to the sky, emblematic of my hearts posture – because I am being sent out under the auspice of my King’s authority . . . empowered to be an envoy of his grace and love in the world. In this way, our worship of God isn’t meant to be a collecting pool filled with all of our favorite God “experiences”, it is to be a cascading fountain – to be poured out into the lives of others.

CarpeDiemBlackBoardOur lives were never meant to be lived at a safe distance from the world, sequestered in our separatist enclaves, cloistered in our parallel universe – so disengaged that when our fallen world acts fallen, we perceive ourselves as being under siege. It is true that we are not to be conformed to this world, as per Paul’s admonition (Romans 12:2) – because we have been set apart to be conformed to Christ (Romans 8:29) . . . which is the very transformation of our thinking described in Romans 12:2. So in truth, it is the way we think about our world which is actually the point – not by trying to make the world less fallen, but rather by being ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20) . . . it is the adventure to which we are all called.

So this Sunday, as the words of the benediction are being spoken — it may help to imagine Gandalf the Grey standing next to you, inviting you on a great adventure, to have your life forever changed, to embrace what you were created to be, created to do . . . because there are many terrifyingly beautiful chapters yet to be written in your story.

This is a song I wrote years ago that my daughter Jessica decided to include on a CD project I recently had the honor of producing for her (my daughters Lindsey and Kathryn sing on this song as well).

Be sure to check out her website @



Life is an Oblation (4 of 5)

Zuzu’s petals!! This exclamation marks the moment of epiphany in one of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history. In the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is running home through the snowy streets of Bedford Falls with tears of joy running down his face. So what exactly was George’s life changing realization? He finally understood that his life was a gift, just as it was, with all of its imperfections and tribulations — and he was overcome with gratitude . . . because he knew the things that mattered most were at home waiting for him.

It is a powerful thing to be broken in just this way, to have the scales fall from your eyes and see the life you were given as a gift. It is to be free of the despair and disillusionment of disappointment, to place into full context the whole of our lives with the sovereignty of God’s assessment of what our lives were meant to be. The clarity and honesty that accompanies such humility brings about a form of freedom not otherwise entertained . . . the freedom to give ourselves away.

635862600053442585-1665491529_baileyIt’s not a generous act if you’re externally compelled to give — neither is it a generous act if offered quid pro quo. In the same way that true love can neither be demanded, nor bartered away, we must give ourselves away unfettered – given of our own freewill, as well as free of our implied expectations. And like true love, one doesn’t simply flip a switch and make it so – if we are to make an offering of our lives to God then we must first be convinced that it has been his all along . . . that all that we are, and all that we have has all been a gift. This is why our understanding of the true nature of gratitude must go beyond sentimentality.

For it is the humbly grateful heart that does not hesitate, for it has already made up its mind to leap, to go all in – placing everything on the line. To attempt to withhold anything from God is to be at odds with the entire universe, because life is an oblation, by design everything was always intended to be returned to God. So let us loosen our grip on what is, arguably, impossible to hold.

Some will offer themselves grudgingly, convinced by guilt that their indentured servitude (being their “reasonable service”) is the least they can do in response to the gift of being alive – so the least is what they bring. Some will offer themselves as a negotiation tactic, in exchange for God’s favor, rewards, and status in the afterlife – so they’re willing to take the job because the pay and benefits are deemed to be worth it.

But I invite you to run home, as fast as you can, with an uncontrollable joy (shouting Zuzu’s petals is optional), and throw yourself into your Father’s arms — because gratitude has so filled your heart that you can’t even imagine a scenario where God doesn’t own ever moment of your life. His kingdom is your home; His presence is your home . . . where else would you rather be?